Horse racing expert Andy Holding has six tips for today's meetings including a 2pt NAP at Leopardstown.
Stradivarius would normally be a strong even money favourite to capture this prize in many of his previous seasons, but there has to be just an inkling of doubt following his last two performances, so therefore he’s passed over in favour of DAWN PATROL (best price 11-1), who has many similar credentials to last year’s winner, Kew Garden.
Just like his stable mate, Aidan O’Brien’s colt arrives here fairly unexposed at the trip and with his latest victory at the Curragh actually suggesting he benefitted greatly for a proper test of stamina, today’s examination should also be right up his street. The way he kept on from the back of the field in the St Leger certainly suggested he required further and that proved to be the case at the Co Kildare venue 20 days ago as he stayed on strongly in the latter stages to repel the late challenge of Barrington Court. Although that contest was only a Group 3, the sixth horse home, Traisha, went on to boost the form with a victory over a competitive field of listed fillies’ at Bath in midweek and even though Ryan Moore has seemingly deserted the son of Galileo in favour of Serpentine (one never really knows with the Ballydoyle set-up), the classy Pierre-Charles Boudet is more than a capable replacement.
As is often the case in these big sprints, the draw, track position and course suitability are more important than ratings alone, so with that in mind, ONASSIS (best price 40-1) is taken to punch above her weight and provide yet another shock in a race where the front end of the market often gets over played because of their early season form.
Although all her best form is over further, it’s worth pointing out that her closing sectionals at the Royal meeting were easily the best on the card (courtesy of the ATR website), so that suggests she has plenty of natural speed to match her ability to stay the trip over a stiff course. A smooth winner of a listed race at Goodwood last time out, Charlie Fellows’ mare once again showed her appreciation for testing conditions and with Hayley Turner likely to give her mount a patient ride from the rear of the field, she’s fancied to be ticking off rivals one by one in the latter stages.
Of the main players, it’s worth pointing out Dream Of Dreams has run way below par in this race for the last two seasons so that has to be a slight concern despite him looking a total different proposition this term. Starman is easily the best long-term prospect in the line-up and there was no fluke about his victory over subsequent winner Dakota Gold at York last time out, as the time figure spoke very favourable of that classy effort. A powerhouse of a sprinter with a high cruising speed and a sharp turn of foot, it’s just a question of whether today’s wide draw and testing ground count against him. One Master posted her career best effort on the speed figures in this race last year and looks sure to go well again, while Oxted adds further spice to proceedings having not been seen out since routing a quality line-up in the July Cup 98 days ago.
LORD PARK (NAP) (best price 9-2) might look one of the most exposed members of today’s field but to be fair to Micky Halford’s gelding, he’s been banging his head against a brick wall for some time now and he’s often run extremely well against trying circumstances.
First catching the eye when he finished on the coat tails of the likes of Sonnyboyliston (now rated 112) and Thundering Nights (105) at the Curragh back in July, the son of Tamayuz gave out signals of better times ahead, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to see him not get his head in front thereafter. That said, his performances against the likes of Baron Samedi and Lafayette in big premier handicaps certainly suggests he hasn’t gone backwards in any way, and considering the ground has been far from unsuitable as well, both runs have to be upgraded. Once again slightly inconvenienced by bad ground at Tipperary last time, today’s surface will be the best he’s raced on for quite some time and with his experiences of those well-run, big-field handicaps under his belt, he should find this afternoon’s task a good deal more palatable.
The market seems to have billed this Group 1 as a match between Mishriff and Magical, but using the former as a guide, SKALETTI (best price 11-1) appears to have been unjustifiably underestimated if you take into account their respective performances on the clock at Deauville back on August 15.
While John Gosden’s colt got all the plaudits for landing the Group 2 at the Normandy based track, the son of Kendargent ran the 1m2f journey of his contest over three seconds quicker and with the runner-up that day, Sottsass, going on to glory in the Arc De Triomphe on his next start, the form couldn’t be any stronger. Supplementing that win with another top-notch effort in the Group 2 Prix Dollar at Longchamp last time out, Jerome Reyneir’s gelding arrives here right on top of his game and with a well-run race at this trip on heavy ground clearly his optimum, a big run looks on the cards in the hand of France’s finest.
Difficult to have a dogmatic view about the draw until the earlier races tell a tale, so the safest option is to play one positioned either side in the shape of NJORD (best price 10-1) And ALTERNATIVE FACT (best price 10-1).
The former has to go down as the unluckiest horse in training over in Ireland, as Jessica Harrington’s gelding has constantly been undone by circumstances out of his control. Half an hour the best horse when runner-up from bad draws in two premier handicaps at the Galway Festival, the son of Roderic O’Connor went on to run an extraordinary race from the back of the field in the Irish Cambridgeshire under top weight on his next start. Handed yet another terrible draw at Listowel last time out, the four-year-old once again had to sit and suffer at the back of the pack at a track that favoured front runners all week, so the fact he managed to get within three lengths of subsequent Group 3 winner, Lady Wannabe, is testimony to his pure ability. Yet to race over today’s track, that would normally go against conventional wisdom, but given his hold-up run-style has often been suited to many horses before him at the Berkshire venue, the risk is worth chancing he takes to the place at the first time of asking.
The latter at least does have some experience of the stiff nature of the track having finishing a creditable third in the Silver Hunt Cup behind Sir Busker back in June and considering that effort came on unsuitably fast ground, his run was worth upgrading. Since then, Ed Dunlop’s gelding has run a series of fine races in victory and defeat and with the last of his performances at York strongly suggesting he remains in excellent heart, connections will be delighted that he sneaks in here off bottom weight. Last turning for home on the Knavesmire, the son of Dalakhani made up an immense amount of ground in the last four furlongs to finish on the coat tails of the main players and with Frankie Dettori seen as a huge positive to his chances, he makes plenty of each-way appeal at his morning odds.